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Deer Valley finds its niche

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Anne Ewers

Anne Ewers

The Deer Valley Music Festival has finally found its place among audiences, according to Anne Ewers.

People are finally "understanding the festival," said the Utah Symphony & Opera CEO. And they've been patronizing concerts in greater numbers this year.

Ewers said ticket sales for concerts at the outdoor Deer Valley Amphitheater were 100 percent of her goal. Sales for chamber concerts at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church were at 99 percent. "Things are really taking off."

The US&O's Deer Valley Music Festival is now in its third season, and Ewers acknowledged the festival experienced a rocky start the first two years. That changed once the US&O's board of trustees wholeheartedly began supporting it. "Last year, when the board embraced the festival, it galvanized it," Ewers said.

Once that happened, donations began pouring in. "This year, $600,000 of new money has come in through donations just for the festival." And unlike the past two years, each soloist and every concert now has a sponsor.

Overall, the financial situation of US&O is steadily improving. Ewers said the organization is well ahead of its schedule in getting out of debt and operating once again in the black. The projected deficit for this year was $571,000, but Ewers said the company bettered its goal by a quarter of a million dollars. "That's because the community has rallied behind us, the board has been galvanized and people are working as a team."

When the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera merged operations in July 2002, there was speculation that symphony devotees wouldn't support the opera side of the company, and vice versa. There wouldn't be crossover audiences. But Ewers said that hasn't been the case. "Since the merger, the number of people who attended the opera who now also attend the symphony has doubled." The same figure holds true for symphony patrons who also frequent the opera.

That's one reason Ewers likes to include an operatic work during the Deer Valley festival. "Our 'product line' has been mix and match, and that's been good for us."

Ewers is optimistic about the festival's future. "More people are making it a destination location. We're doing a lot of advertising, and we're trying to get the information (about the festival) out sooner. We've learned to do that."

Except for the opening night concert with Kenny G, there aren't any major artists coming to Deer Valley. "We've been shown that having better-known guests and conductors isn't a draw," Ewers said, "but with the large turnout with Kenny G, we have to rethink that. We're still in the process of trying to get it all figured out."

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com